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In Moscow, Christian unity trumps politics

Believers from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus focus on 'the path to spiritual maturity' at annual conference.

Dima Timoshenko of Donetsk, Ukraine, speaks at the conference in Moscow. (PHOTO BY EILEEN EMCH)


MOSCOWYou alone are my strength, my shield. To you alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship you.

Not far from the Kremlin, 100 Christians sang those words — first in Ukrainian, then in Russian and finally in English — during the annual Russian Christian Conference. 

“Tears were absolutely streaming down my face,” said Lydmila Michaelova of Moscow. 

It was a poignant moment for the faithful — representing 15 Churches of Christ in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus — as they showed that recent political tensions hadn’t broken the bonds of fellowship.

Russian Christians organized this year’s conference — an “encouraging sign of maturity,” said Joel Petty, a minister for Churches of Christ in St. Petersburg, Russia. Russian congregations also assumed more of the conference funding than in years past, said Vladimir Michaelov, a minister in Moscow.

“The Path to Spiritual Maturity” was the theme. Keynote speakers asked, “Is spiritual growth evident in our churches today? What are obstacles to spiritual growth?” 

Phil Jackson, of Texas-based Missions Resource Network, talks about “the path to spiritual maturity” during the conference. (PHOTO BY EILEEN EMCH)
Phil Jackson, of Mission Resource Network in Texas, gave practical ways to achieve maturity, sharing that his own spiritual growth surged when he joined a small accountability group. Participants shared their experiences in discussion groups.

The conference was “lively — not just listening to lectures,” said Aleksay Tolstopiatov, a construction worker in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, and graduate of the Institute of Theology and Christian Ministry in St. Petersburg. 

In years past, Christians have relied on scholarships to attend the conference, but “more people paid their own way this time, another sign of maturity,” Tolstopiatov said.

The Christians formed new bonds of fellowship with believers from outside Eastern Europe. Reagan Danzi, a native of the West African nation of Ghana, traveled from the nearby town of Tver, where he’s a first-year graduate student, to attend.

“This conference opened my eyes,” he said. “I enjoyed meeting new people and making friends from other parts of the world.”
Participants in the Russian Christian Conference (PHOTO PROVIDED BY EILEEN EMCH)

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